Detained soldiers’ kids ‘traumatised’

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Keiso Mohloboli

THE wives of soldiers detained for allegedly plotting to topple the army command, say their children are suffering psychological trauma due to their fathers’ absence for over seven months.

Twenty three Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members were imprisoned between May and June 2015 and charged with mutiny. Five soldiers have since been released on different occasions with 18 still in Maseru Maximum Security Prison.

However, all 23 soldiers are facing the mutiny charges in a court martial that resumed on Monday.

One of the wives of the detained soldiers told a prayer gathering commemorating the birthday of slain former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao on Saturday that their children had emotional scars due to their fathers’ absence. The prayer gathering was held in Mokema where Lt-Gen Mahao was shot dead by his LDF colleagues on 25 June 2015 allegedly for resisting arrest for suspected mutiny.

“There should have been many of us here, but we are scared. The authorities have turned their backs on us,” said the woman who requested anonymity.

“When I see people taking my pictures, I fear that something bad might happen to me. But God is great and has control over everything.”

While acknowledging the support she and other wives of detained soldiers had received from well-wishers, the woman said their children were being “neglected”.

“We have received a lot of support, but our children have been neglected. We need to bring them together so they can interact,” she said.

“Just yesterday, my child, who is in Grade 8, came back home from school crying and said that an older student had taunted him by saying ‘your father is in prison’.”

Another detained soldier’s wife told the Lesotho Times yesterday that her toddler had “forgotten” he had a father.

“My boy once asked me if he had a father because one of his playmates asked if he had a father or not. He looked depressed because he did not have an answer to the question, and I realised that he had totally forgotten about his father,” the woman said.

“I did not know how to answer him because I was not sure if he would understand if I told him that his father was detained in prison.

“My child has nightmares that he cannot explain, and it all started after the arrest of his father at home.”

Another detained soldier’s wife said while all her children were adults, they had become reserved and lost weight because of their father’s incarceration.

“It is very difficult for me to see my children always depressed. They accompany me every time I visit their father at the Maseru Maximum Security Prison and see the bad treatment we receive there,” she said.

“My children are very bitter and sometimes they just cry without expressing their anguish with me. My other son told me that he would not share what he was going through because I am also going through a hard time. They no longer eat properly saying they don’t have the appetite, and they are now losing weight.”

Asked about how her children were faring at school, one lady said she knew her children were capable of performing well in their studies as they used to do in previous years.

“It is like a nightmare. My children are all struggling to concentrate at school and always on my case about when their father will come back from prison,” she said.

“They also told me that they no longer enjoyed hanging out with their peers at school or in our village because they were being teased that their father was a criminal who was arrested because he was part of a plot to destabilise Lesotho.

“It is very painful because they are just children who are not even aware of the country’s security issues.”

Another teary eyed mother said her children had always aspired to become soldiers when they grew up until their father’s imprisonment.

“My children always wanted to be soldiers like their father, but after witnessing the arrest of their father by his colleagues, they have changed their minds,” she said.

“They are now scared of soldiers, and no longer look up to them as their role models. They literally run away when they see a military vehicle coming their way when they are playing.

“They scream and run into the house, scared that they might be taken away like their father. I never thought that their father’s imprisonment would traumatise them like that.”

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